Walks in Northern Snowdonia - 6 of the Best

Walks in Northern Snowdonia - 6 of the Best

Snowdonia Panoramic View

The northern stretches of Snowdonia National Park encompass an area of glaciated mountains and lake-filled valleys which offer endless walking options. From elevated positions, the dramatic landscape can be seen stretching as far as the eye can see.

There are many peaks to summit including the highest of them all – Mount Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa) – at 1085m. If peak bagging is not your thing, there are plenty of other walking options which enable you to drink in the glorious scenery – let us show you the way.

Our Top 6 Walking Routes in Northern Snowdonia 

All these walks are available on our guided and self-guided walking holidays in Northern Snowdonia. Many other routes also available - three each day of different grade for maximum flexibility and choice.

Snowdon summit1. Snowdon Summit (via Pyg Track)

Distance: 9 miles (14.5km)
Total ascent: 3,200 ft (980m)
Estimated walking time: 6 hours 30 minutes 

The walk in a nutshell: A classic walk to reach the summit of Snowdon, descending the opposite side to enjoy it from a different perspective.

Don't miss: The panoramic views from the summit of Snowdon. On a clear day you can see Ireland!

The Route

Starting from the car park at Pen Y Pass we walk a short section of the Miner’s Track before veering right to take the Pyg Track. There is a steady climb upwards over the Bwlch y Moch pass (Pass of the Pigs) after which we get our first views of the Llyn Llydaw – the large lake below. It is said that King Arthur fought his last battle on the crags above and upon his death his body was placed in a boat and pushed out on to the lake to seek eternal rest.

Avoiding the vertiginous Crib Goch (Red Ridge) route, we’ll continue on the Pyg Track which skirts around and above Glaslyn, the smaller of the two lakes on Snowdon’s eastern flanks. Its blue/green colour comes from the rocks containing copper sulphate which sit on the lake’s floor. Hardy miners used to mine for copper in this area and carry the ore in sacks on their backs almost to the summit of Snowdon from where it was taken down the western flanks on sledges. The remains of miners’ barracks can be seen dotted around Glaslyn’s northern shore.

Continuing steeply upwards, the path converges with the Llanberis Path and Snowdon Ranger Path for the final ascent to Snowdon’s summit – Yr Wyddfa in Welsh meaning ‘Burial Place’. It is said that this is the final resting place of Rhita Fawr, a giant who killed Saxon kings and wove clothes from their beards. Legend has it that this mighty enemy was killed by King Arthur.

Having taken time to enjoy the panoramic views, we will take a different route back down the mountain – the Bwlch Main Path – which heads southwards initially down a sharp ridge. We turn east before heading down towards the valley bottom to join the Watkin Path for a time. This path was named after Sir Edward Watkin, a railway magnate who had a chalet near the beginning of the path. The path was built so that his guests could walk in safety to the top of Snowdon. At the Cwm Llan Valley we are treated to a wonderful view of a series of waterfalls cascading down the mountain.

Leaving the Watkin Path we head in a south-westerly direction on a route which leads directly back to Craflwyn Hall for a celebratory drink.

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Criccieth Castle, Snowdonia2. Moel Y Gest

Distance: 9 miles (15km)
Total ascent: 1,300 ft (400m)
Estimated walking time: 5 hours 35 minutes

The walk in a nutshell: A gentle coastal walk which takes in Moel y Gest – a 263m hill which was used a hillfort during the Iron Age. It is very easy to opt out of this ascent if you prefer.

Don't miss: The panoramic views from the hilltop of Moel y Gest – sea in one direction and mountains in the other.

The Route:

The walk starts at the small coastal town of Criccieth on the Llyn Peninsula, in north-west Wales. The 13th Century Criccieth Castle is perched on the headland; the castle was built by Llywelyn the Great and subsequently taken over and enlarged by Edward 1 before being all but destroyed in 1404 by Owain Glyndwr.

Walking past the castle, the level terrain closely follows the coast next to Black Rock Sands Beach with views out across Tremadoc Bay. This wide stretch of sandy beach gets its name from the large multi-coloured rock headland at the western end. Leaving town, the scenery gets a little wilder with wind-blown grasses and farmland to the inland side of the path.

There is a short diversion away from the coast along a lane before the route returns to the shore to follow the sand dunes. It passes the small village of Morfa Bychan which has many holiday homes. It is also a good place to spot wading birds and waterfowl. From here we head inland, following the route of the Dwyryd River estuary past the small harbour at Borth y Gest. The distant mountains form a beautiful backdrop to the scenery.

Heading further inland, there is the option of enjoying a leg-stretching climb up Moel y Gest (263m). From the top of this modest hill there are commanding views over Cardigan Bay and inland to the peaks of Snowdonia. Mission accomplished, we descend to the town of Porthmadog, a thriving harbour town which is home to the Ffestiniog Railway, originally built to serve the area’s slate mines.

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Rugged mountains on the Nantlle Ridge3. Nantlle Ridge

Distance: 7 miles (11km)
Total ascent: 3,000 ft (920m)
Estimated Walking Time: 5 hours 15 minutes

The walk in a nutshell: The Nantlle Ridge walk is a classic ridge walk which should be on the list of any adventurous walker. Many believe it is second only to the walk along Crib Goch on the slopes of Mt. Snowdon. The route requires some scrambling in places.

Don't miss: The sweeping views from Mynydd Tal-y-mignedd – a 653m (2142 ft) peak capped by a stone obelisk – erected by local slate miners to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

 The Route:

The walk starts from just outside the village of Rhyd Ddu, a small, classic Welsh village with slate-roofed cottages and a cosy pub. There are glorious views of the western slope of Mt. Snowdon from here but our goal sees us heading in the opposite direction.

A long, steep ascent on grassy tracks takes us to the first summit of the day – Y Garn (633m). On the way up it’s good to pause every now to turn around and see the glorious views of Mt. Snowdon behind. Nearing the summit, the path becomes rockier; a cairn marks the top. From here there are good views across the Snowdon Range and across to Mynydd Mawr.

Having caught our breath and taken our fill of the views, we head in a southerly direction along a ridge and upwards to the peak of Mynydd Drws y Coed (695m). There are fantastic views down to Beddgelert Forest and Llyn-y-Gader in the valley. Continuing upwards, we reach the highest point of the walk – Trum y Ddysgl (709m). It’s a good place to stop and admire the mountains which seemingly stretch on forever.

From here we descend a little and make a detour south-west along a path known as ‘the hiatus’ to stand on our next summit – Mynydd Tal-y-mignedd (653m). The summit is a subsidiary summit of Trum y Ddysgl and is topped with a large stone obelisk which was erected to commemorate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.

From here we retrace our steps a little, heading northwards to follow the ridge around before descending steeply via a grassy ridge to reach a bridle path at Bwlch-y-Ddwy-Elor. The route then heads north-east through the Beddgelert Forest to eventually re-join the path we set off on this morning. We head for the heart of Rhyd Ddu village to enjoy a well-earned drink in the local pub. 

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Mountain lake of Llyn Crafnant4. Llyn Crafnant

Distance: 7.5 miles (12km)
Total ascent: 1,350 feet (400m)
Estimated Walking Time: 5 hours 10 minutes

The walk in a nutshell: Get a real feel for being in the mountains without having any major ascents or descents on this point to point walk between Capel Curig and Trefriw.

Don't miss: Admiring the classic views of the ‘Snowdon Horseshoe’ as you start the walk from Capel Curig.

The Route:

The walk starts from the hamlet of Capel Curig, just off the A5 as it weaves its way through a pass between two mountains. Heading eastwards, we follow an old packhorse route through a short stretch of woodland before the trees give way to open land with views of the surrounding mountains. We head for Llyn Crafnant (Lake of the Garlic Hollow), one of the many reservoirs which dot the mountains. As we near it there are impressive views of Crimpiau (475m), a peak to the west.

The lake lies in a deep glacial basin which was once home to the small hamlet of Llanrwst before it was submerged by the building of the reservoir. Local fishermen say that when they are in their boats they can look down the chimneys of the old houses beneath the water! There is a monument commemorating the hamlet at the northern end of the lake. The dramatic scenery here has been used for location shots in a variety of film and TV productions including Tomb Raider II and Dragonslayer.

Our route follows the north-eastern shore of the lake; the northern end of the lake is a good spot to stop for lunch to absorb the beauty of the soaring mountains. Re-fuelled, we head up hill in a north-easterly direction through a wooded area. The woodland gives way to an area which was once a slate quarry; there is a huge cave which still has old quarry buildings inside it. You can see a small tunnel which was once used to carry the slate to a chute which conveyed the slate to the valley floor from where it was taken by cart to Trefriw for onward transportation to Conwy via the river.

Moving on, we pass spoil heaps from old lead and zinc mining activity. Since the mine closed, nature has begun the process of reclaiming the land. The spoil heaps now support a variety of plant life including two quite rare species – forked spleenwort and Alpine pennycress.

The route continues and skirts the northern end of Llyn Geirionydd where there is a monument to the 6th Century bard - Taliesin - who is thought to have lived here and may also be buried here. Taliesin is the earliest known poet of the Welsh language and was chief bard in the court of at least three kings of Britain. Some of his work survives to this day. The tranquil lake is beautiful but its beauty belies a dirty secret; the lead mining activity has poisoned the area to the extent that its waters are devoid of fish.

Leaving the lake behind, we head towards the hamlet of Llanrhychwyn. It has an 11th Century church which is well worth a visit. The church is one of the oldest in Wales and has a font which is believed to be the oldest in Britain.

From here the route crosses fields before descending steeply downwards through some woods to reach a minor road. Following this road, we reach the village of Trefriw on the confluence of the Rivers Crafnant and much bigger Conwy. The settlement has a long history as a river port, exporting timber, rock and minerals from the surrounding hills. With the advent of water power in the 19th Century, it also became a centre for milling wool. There is still a wool mill here today which is well worth a visit as are the Fairy Waterfalls which are located behind it.

There should be time for some refreshment in Trefriw’s tea room before our transport arrives to take us back to Beddgelert. Don’t miss local specialities such as Welsh cakes and bara brith (speckled bread).

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Stwlan reservoir and Moelwyn Mawr5. Moelwyn Mawr

Distance: 7.5 miles (12km)
Total ascent: 2,150 ft (640m)
Estimated walking time: 5 hours 35 minutes

The walk in a nutshell: A point-to-point walk through the mountains from Tanygrisiau to Garreg which traverses the highest Moelwyn peak. The route is in the heart of the slate quarrying area and involves crossing a range of terrain including rock, bog and slate.

Don't miss: The sweeping mountain views in the slate quarrying heartland.

The Route:

The start of the walking route is in Tanygrisiau, a small slate mining village at the northern end of Tanygrisiau Reservoir connected by the Ffestiniog Railway. Heading in a north-easterly direction, the path rises steeply and passes some pretty waterfalls tumbling over a jumble of rocks.

The route continues through an area where slate was once quarried in vast quantities. It passes the disused Cwmorthin Slate Quarry which once had a reputation of being so dangerous that it was nicknamed ‘The Slaughterhouse’; many local men refused to work there.

The path skirts Llyn Cwmorthin and on to another key slate area - the disused Rhosydd Slate Quarry which operated for 100 years. Its waste tip contains some two million tonnes of rock. You can see unusual slate fences here; trees and wood being in short supply, it made sense to utilise a more plentiful material. Signs of the industrial past are everywhere with ruined mine buildings and rusting bits of machinery. There are also many ‘adits’ - horizontal entrance passages to the mine. However, the wide open vistas and surrounding mountains are glorious to behold.

A steady climb upwards over rocky terrain leads to the summit of Moelwyn Mawr (770m) – the Big White Hill. From here you can enjoy a dizzying panorama of almost all the mountains of Snowdonia. On a clear day at least 15 lakes can be seen.

The route continues westwards along a narrow ridge before descending steeply to reach a small knoll. The route is then generally downwards where it reaches a minor road before heading into some woods. As the woods end you reach the village of Garreg Llanfrothen, once the home of Sir Clough Williams-Ellis – the well-known architect who created the Italianate village of Portmeirion. You will notice Brondanw Tower on a small hill – a folly built with money donated by Clough’s regiment on his engagement in 1915.

It is then a short walk to the village of Garreg to meet the vehicle for the return journey to Beddgelert.

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Cantilever Rock, Glyders, Snowdonia6. The Glyders

Distance: 6 miles (9.5km)
Total ascent: 2,550 ft (780m)
Estimated walking time: 6 hours 40 minutes

The walk in a nutshell: An exhilarating upland point-to-point walk for adventurous walkers which takes in the famous twin tops of Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach. The terrain is generally rough under foot with some sections which require scrambling.

Don't miss: Clambering up onto the precariously balanced Cantilever stone to pose for a classic photo.

The Route:

The walk starts in the small village of Ogwen Cottage at the westerly end of Llyn Ogwen. The route starts off being relatively flat as it skirts the edge of Llyn Idwal into stark, rocky terrain which is largely devoid of vegetation apart from small patches of short grass. Despite its stark appearance, the area around Llyn Idwal is designated a National Nature Reserve – the longest established one in Wales. There are many rare and fragile plant species here as well as world-renowned rock formations. A small island of rock in the lake gives an idea of how the vegetation in the area should look once it has recovered from being grazed. To the left of the lake path there are a large collection of large rocks known as Darwin Idwal Boulders – named after Charles Darwin himself. Darwin regularly visited this area to study the rocks and plants during his studies into evolution.

At the southern end of the lake the famous Idwal Slabs come into view. These rocks have provided a training ground for many pioneering mountaineers including Sir Edmund Hillary. The path starts to ascend as it passes the ‘Devil’s Kitchen’ – a dark crack which runs between Y Garn and Glyder Fawr. The crack sometimes appears to exude a plume of ‘steam’ which makes it resemble a chimney – signs that the Devil is cooking! Moving on, the path passes a small lake – Llyn y Cwn. At this point the terrain starts to get rougher and steeper and can require some scrambling over the loose scree.

A long, steep, challenging climb eventually ends at the summit of Glyder Fawr (1001m) – the fifth highest mountain in Wales. It was only designated as such in 2010 when GPS mapping showed that it was actually 2m higher than previously thought. From here there are glorious views of the Snowdon Range, Tryfan and the Carneddau and down to the lakes in the valley below.

Having completed the hardest ascent of the walk, the route to Glyder Fach is more level and on firmer terrain. Just before the summit of Glyder Fach is the Castell y Gwynt (Castle of the Winds), a jumble of upright jagged rocks which resemble the back of a Stegosaurus. Having reached the summit of Glyder Fach (994m) one of the area’s main highlights comes into view - the famous Cantilever rock. This large, flat piece of rock overhangs the space below in a slightly improbable manner. If you have the nerve, walk to the end of it to pose in a classic photo.

What goes up, must come down, so a steep scramble down Bristly Ridge is required. The loose scree provides a bit of a challenge but soon leads to Bwlch Tryfan. From here we go upwards once again over very rough, rocky terrain to reach the summit of Tryfan (917m) to bag the third peak of the day. Scrambling will definitely be required. At the summit are two flat-topped pillars of rock which are known as Adam and Eve. Some people jump from one to the other but it is not recommended!

Retracing the route to Bwlch Tryfan we follow a small section of the Miner’s Track before heading south to take us steadily down from the mountains. The route passes a small waterfall and crosses a stream; the ground in this area can be quite boggy, especially in wet weather.

The walk ends back at the main road near the Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel at the foot of Mt. Snowdon. This hotel was used by members of Hillary’s 1953 Everest Expedition team as base while they trained in the nearby mountains. From here our vehicle takes us on the short drive back to Craflwyn Hall near Beddgelert for some well-earned refreshments.

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Northern Snowdonia Walking Holiday Options

All of our walking holidays in northern Snowdonia stay in our own accommodation - Craflwyn Hall at the foot of Mt. Snowdon.